§ Mr. Bercow
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps his Department is taking to address the issue of age discrimination. 
§ Beverley Hughes
The Home Office has continued to integrate age into its equal opportunity policies and to apply its commitments that there should be no unfair discrimination on the basis of age and that staff of all ages and backgrounds should be provided with opportunities to maximise their skills and achieve their potential. Action on diversity will continue to tackle any negative attitudes towards older staff, particularly through the training and development of managers and through the monitoring of recruitment, selection and appraisal statistics.
Since 1 April 2002, following a review of the Department's age retirement policy, Home Office staff in all grades below the Senior Civil Service have been allowed to retire at any point between the ages of 60 and 65. From the same date, the Home Office changed its recruitment policy to allow the recruitment of staff up to the age of 64 subject to their meeting normal standards of health and provided that there is an expectation of a reasonable period of employment and return on recruitment and training.
The Prison Service is carrying out a separate review of its age retirement policy. However, on 16 December 2002 a temporary relaxation of its policy was issued, applicable to all non-operational staff below the Senior Civil Service, effective until 1 July 2004. This allows staff covered by the policy to apply for an extension of service beyond 60, subject to health and efficiency considerations.
In making these various changes, the Home Office has been implementing recommendations of the Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) report 'Winning the Generation Game'.